Tags Juan E. Mendez
Tag: Juan E. Mendez
International law regarding the right to personal integrity prohibits physical as well as mental torture and that prohibition is absolute: It recognizes no exception based on an emergency or other circumstance. Equally absolute is the prohibition on any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which covers pain or suffering – also of either physical or mental nature – that is less severe than torture and not necessarily inflicted with intent.
Roughly 80,000 people are held in solitary in the United States on any given day, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in many cases for minor violations of prison rules (or no violation at all – ed.). Much of the momentum in the movement to reform the use of solitary confinement in the United States comes from the work of prisoners themselves.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez today called on the United States to immediately end the indefinite solitary confinement imposed on Albert Woodfox since 1972. Mr. Woodfox was convicted of murder together with Herman Wallace, who was released last week when his conviction was overturned on appeal. A day later, Mr. Wallace died after battling cancer, having spent 41 years in solitary confinement.
Representatives of the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit have based their decision on a meeting with fellow prisoners at the prison, the growing international condemnation of California’s practice of solitary confinement, as well as the commitment of California Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairs Loni Hancock and Tom Ammiano to convene a series of hearings in response to the strikers’ demands that would “address the issues that have been raised to a point where they can no longer be ignored.”
Today Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano announced that they will hold public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that have led to the inmate hunger strike, now in its 54th day. They anticipate that hearings may begin as early as this fall and continue into next year. The two legislators, chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Public Safety, urged an immediate end to the hunger strike so that energy and attention can be focused on the issues that have been raised.
Efforts over the past month to discuss or mediate the prisoner’s concerns with the CDCR have not resulted in any changes in policy and we are therefore now writing to request that you urgently consider conducting an on-site visit to one or more California prisons, including Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) to interview prisoners (now on the 38th day of their hunger strike) and prison officials.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit Thursday on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform inhumane conditions in California prisons’ Security Housing Units (SHUs) dramatized by a 2011 hunger strike by thousands of prisoners.